Yesterday featured historic collection of blowouts

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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A matchup between the Warriors and Nuggets for first place in the Western Conference appeared to highlight yesterday’s NBA schedule – at least if Golden State cared. Already having proven themselves as back-to-back defending champions, the Warriors have been disinterested in other hyped games.

In one way, we got our wish. Golden State cared. But too much to make the game interesting. The Warriors scored an NBA-record 51 first-quarter points and put Denver away early in a 31-point win.

Yet, that was only the fourth-most-lopsided game of the night.

The 76ers beat the Timberwolves by 42. The Bucks beat the Heat by 38. The Pacers beat the Suns by 34.

Yesterday’s full slate:

  • 76ers 149, Timberwolves 107
  • Bucks 124, Heat 86
  • Pacers 131, Suns 97
  • Warriors 142, Nuggets 111
  • Hawks 142, Thunder 126
  • Lakers 107, Bulls 100

With an average margin of 28.0 points per game, that was the most-lopsided day in NBA history (minimum: four games), breaking the previous record of 27.8 on Feb. 11, 1968 and demolishing the previous record for a day with more than four games of 23.8 on Feb. 21, 1994.

Here are the most-lopsided days in NBA history (more than three games):

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Jan. 15, 2019 (six games)

Philadelphia 76ers 149, Minnesota Timberwolves 107

Milwaukee Bucks 124, Miami Heat 86

Indiana Pacers 131, Phoenix Suns 97

Golden State Warriors 142, Denver Nuggets 111

Atlanta Hawks 142, Oklahoma City Thunder 126

Los Angeles Lakers 107, Chicago Bulls 100

Feb. 11, 1968 (four games)

Los Angeles Lakers 141, Boston Celtics 104

Seattle SuperSonics 146, San Francisco Warriors 118

Philadelphia 76ers 119, St. Louis Hawks 93

Baltimore Bullets 136, San Diego Rockets 116

Nov. 12, 1966 (four games)

Los Angeles Lakers 144, Detroit Pistons 88

St. Louis Hawks 115, Boston Celtics 92

Philadelphia 76ers 112, Cincinnati Royals 98

New York Knicks 134, Baltimore Bullets 124

Oct. 21, 1961 (four games)

Philadelphia Warriors 132, New York Knicks 95

Boston Celtics 137, Detroit Pistons 102

Syracuse Nationals 123, Chicago Packers 103

Cincinnati Royals 138, St. Louis Hawks 129

Feb. 21, 1994 (six games)

Miami Heat 128, Washington Bullets 98

Utah Jazz 119, Philadelphia 76ers 92

Phoenix Suns 112, Sacramento Kings 86

San Antonio Spurs 114, Minnesota Timberwolves 89

Chicago Bulls 118, Charlotte Hornets 93

Dallas Mavericks 98, Detroit Pistons 88

Nov. 21, 1982 (four games)

Portland Trail Blazers 129, Cleveland Cavaliers 79

New Jersey Nets 111, Seattle SuperSonics 91

Los Angeles Lakers 143, Denver Nuggets 129

Milwaukee Bucks 109, Indiana Pacers 98

April 2, 1987 (four games)

Detroit Pistons 119, Indiana Pacers 73

Denver Nuggets 132, Golden State Warriors 96

Sacramento Kings 125, Los Angeles Clippers 115

Los Angeles Lakers 117, Seattle SuperSonics 114

Dec. 20, 1968 (five games)

New York Knicks 135, Detroit Pistons 87

Los Angeles Lakers 133, San Francisco Warriors 101

Baltimore Bullets 125, Chicago Bulls 102

Milwaukee Bucks 100, Seattle SuperSonics 92

Philadelphia 76ers 116, San Diego Rockets 109

Feb. 6, 1968 (four games)

Los Angeles Lakers 146, Cincinnati Royals 102

Detroit Pistons 120, San Diego Rockets 93

New York Knicks 121, St. Louis Hawks 100

San Francisco Warriors 126, Chicago Bulls 124

Feb. 4, 1987 (four games)

Los Angeles Lakers 128, Sacramento Kings 92

Dallas Mavericks 124, Seattle SuperSonics 94

Philadelphia 76ers 121, New Jersey Nets 95

Boston Celtics 104, Cleveland Cavaliers 102

March 19, 1972 (six games)

Los Angeles Lakers 162, Golden State Warriors 99

Cincinnati Royals 136, Buffalo Braves 105

Philadelphia 76ers 115, Seattle SuperSonics 100

Baltimore Bullets 125, Boston Celtics 112

Atlanta Hawks 115, Cleveland Cavaliers 105

Chicago Bulls 115, Detroit Pistons 107

March 16, 1968 (four games)

Los Angeles Lakers 135, Detroit Pistons 108

Boston Celtics 136, Baltimore Bullets 111

Philadelphia 76ers 144, Chicago Bulls 122

St. Louis Hawks 124, Seattle SuperSonics 106

Jan. 9, 1995 (four games)

Portland Trail Blazers 129, Los Angeles Lakers 83

Phoenix Suns 119, Milwaukee Bucks 102

Utah Jazz 106, Dallas Mavericks 90

Boston Celtics 114, Washington Bullets 101

Dec. 29, 1992 (six games)

Sacramento Kings 139, Dallas Mavericks 81

Seattle SuperSonics 111, Boston Celtics 87

Golden State Warriors 132, Houston Rockets 112

Cleveland Cavaliers 114, Atlanta Hawks 96

Chicago Bulls 114, Charlotte Hornets 103

New York Knicks 97, Indiana Pacers 91

Feb. 24, 1982 (six games)

Boston Celtics 132, Utah Jazz 90

Phoenix Suns 131, Cleveland Cavaliers 97

Indiana Pacers 118, New York Knicks 87

Portland Trail Blazers 123, Kansas City Kings 111

Houston Rockets 120, Denver Nuggets 110

Milwaukee Bucks 113, New Jersey Nets 106

Block or charge: Alperen Sengun dunks on Zach Collins

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To borrow the catchphrase of the great Rex Chapman:

Block or charge?

The Rockets’ Alperen Sengun caught a body and threw one down on the Spurs’ Zach Collins but was called for the offensive foul.

NBA Twitter went nuts.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas challenged the call, but it was upheld (from my perspective, the replay officials are always looking to back the in-game officials if they at all can).

By the time Collins slid over and jumped, Sengun was already in the air — if anything that was a block. What the officials called was Sengun using his off-arm to create space.

I hate the call — that’s a dunk and an and-one. Not because it’s a great dunk — although it is that, too — but because Collins literally jumped into the path of an already airborne Sengun, Collins created all the contact. It’s on him. Under the spirit of the rules, Sengun’s off-arm is moot at that point — Collins illegally jumped in Sengun’s way and caused the collision.

Terrible call by the officials.

It was a good night for the Spurs, overall. San Antonio played its best defense in a while and Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs 11-game losing streak.

Three things to know: Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

This game felt like a 2019 playoff time capsule, with Damian Lillard and Jamal Murray trading blows in a dramatic game.

Lillard landed more of them, he finished with 40 points — and his final three were vintage Dame Time.

But Murray had the final word.

The final minutes of this game were insane.

It was a needed win for a Denver team that some nights look like they can compete with the best in the league, then turn around 48 hours later and mail in a loss to a tanking team. Nikola Jokic scored 33 against Portland (with 10 boards and nine assists) — he is again putting up numbers that will have him in the MVP conversation (even if it’s a longshot he wins it). However, the Nuggets’ bottom-five defense makes them inconsistent night to night.

Portland revamped their roster to get younger and more athletic around Lillard this past offseason, but one of the results of that is the inconsistency of youth. The Blazers don’t bring the same level of execution every night. If they don’t learn that lesson, they may be different in makeup but the results will be the same as many Portland teams of the last decade — an early playoff exit.

2) Brittney Griner is home on U.S.soil

After spending 10 months in Russian jails — including being convicted and sent to a penal colony — on trumped-up drug charges that made her a political pawn in a massive geo-political battle, Brittney Griner is finally home on U.S. soil, her plane landed in Texas overnight.

The Biden administration worked out a prisoner exchange with Russia that brings Griner home to be with her wife, family and friends — that is something to be celebrated.

Of course, there was some pushback online/in the media from people who care only about trying to score political points for their selfish ends. Fortunately, we had the family of Paul Whelan — a Michigan corporate security executive who has been behind bars in Russia since December 2018 on trumped-up espionage charges — who praised the president for bringing Griner home and making “the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”

An American citizen is home. She happens to be a WNBA star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, but those things are not what matters most, and are secondary to her family who are just happy to hug her and tell her they love her again. We all hope that day comes soon for American political prisoners held around the globe (including Whelan), but we should celebrate the big victory of Griner being back on U.S. soil.

3) Spurs snap 11-game losing streak behind 32 from Johnson

Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs’ 11-game losing streak.

“This has been the first game in a while where we were clicking defensively,” Johnson told the Associated Press after the game. “You can tell when we get stops, get out and run and be able to get out front. If we can keep that mindset of defense first, get stops and we let the offense take care of itself, we’ll be in great shape.”

All of that is interesting, but the real debate of the night: Was this an offensive foul by Alperen Sengun, or a block by Zach Collins?

Sengun was in the air when Collins came over, but he also used his off hand to create space for the dunk. This is a bang-bang call and the challenge of the block/charge call — I think that’s a block by Collins, but that’s not how the referee or many others have seen it. How would you have called it?

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Bulls’ Zach LaVine not available via trade

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.